At the New Context Conference in November, Digital Garage announced their new Twitter-based community service - twicco. DG had announced a partnership with Twitter, Inc., at the beginning of 2008 - See PDF (PDF? c'mon... !) and the have been working on localisation issues with the service. twicco represents an extension of this relationship, and is produced by DG group's DGIncubation, Inc - although curiously there is no mention of the service on the DG Incubation website.
twicco works simply by taking @replies sent to an account, and posting them as updates to the account's timeline. This changes twitter from a one-to-many to a many-to-many communications service, hence enabling groups or communities.
The interface is only in Japanese at the moment - and the instructions on the site are a little confused - but here is the rough guide to starting up a twicco group...
- Follow @twicco from your main account
- Set up a second twitter account for the group
- Add the twicco T&C URL to your profile - http://twicco.jp/tos
- Append some disclaimer text to your bio
- Go to the twicco site, and navigate to an appropriate category in their hieirarchy.
- Click on "Apply to add community to this category"
- Input the username and password of your new site
- Input the username and password of your original twitter account
- Click Apply
- Await approval
To test the service, I set up a twicco group for Adobe MAX Tokyo 2009 - which I will be attending at the end of the month. The group was approved in a couple of hours, and seems to work nicely, apart from a couple of glitches....
I noticed that some of my English text was posted in double-byte characters instead of single byte. I deleted the post, and re-added, but the same thing happened. Then I saw on the site that they have "disabled" follow and direct message commands. Unfortunately they have done this in quite a stupid way it seems - by replacing all occurrences of the strings "follow" and "d" that are followed with a space with double byte characters, so as to fool the twitter API. AFAIK there is no need to corrupt messages like this, as the commands are only effective if they are at the beginning of the tweet, and in the case of "follow" if the username is not followed by any text. Sounds like lazy programming - regex anyone? I don't have a completely English environment at the moment to check this out, but I worry that some systems will garbled these English letters if they don't have Japanese fonts installed.
The other problem is that they require you to use their TOS URL for the more information link - which you would normally link to your own site - and to add some disclaimer text to your bio description. These may well turn people off from converting their existing accounts to twicco groups, so DG may want to rethink this. I notice that some groups are still awaiting approval, probably because they have failed to add these items.
Otherwise, it's quite a nice twist on microblogging ... and many groups are springing up. Real time chat about what's on TV right now. To use the system, you don't even have to know about twicco .... simply:
- Follow the user (eg. http://twitter.com/AdobeMAXTokyo )
- Post your messages by @replying to that account.
As twicco has to access the API to do it's magic, you have to wait a minute or two for the message to appear in the public timeline. When they do, they also appear in your own timeline, transformed into tweets originating from the group account, and with a twicco id appended (they seem to maintain the original source tag).